To commemorate the wreck of the French steam trawler Tadorne and the loss of five French fishermen’s lives, a centenary event was held in Howick on Saturday.
Descendents of the rescuers from Craster, Howick and Boulmer gathered in the village to meet five members of one family who had travelled from France to mark the occasion in honour of their ancestor Pierre Archenoux, who drowned in the tragedy.
The event celebrated the heroic action of the Boulmer lifeboat men, who rowed two miles and back through heavy seas, some of them twice, to rescue 25 trawlermen, and also the compassion of the women of Boulmer who had looked after the shipwrecked men.
Descendents of the Thompson family of Howick Seahouses Farm, who had raised the alarm and subsequently cared for the grave, along with descendents of Earl and Countess Grey by whose generosity the survivors did not return empty-handed, were also present.
From Craster there were descendents of the coastguard and fishermen who had assisted with the rescue.
On Saturday morning, the French visitors were hosted in Boulmer by the Campbell family – Mattie Campbell’s father having been one of the lifeboatmen of the 1913 action – and the Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service, with a tour of the lifeboat house and a trip along the shore to see the course of the lifeboat’s life-saving mission.
In the afternoon a large crowd gathered at Howick Haven, the scene of the wreck, and readings from contemporary documents gave a vivid impression of the hazardous conditions under which the lifeboatmen carried out their rescue, risking their own lives.
A moving service in Howick Church, conducted by the Rev Ian McKarill, followed the walk, and as the final words of the last hymn were sung – For Those in Peril on the Sea – the large congregation processed to the grave.
Wreaths were laid on the grave and a minute’s silence was observed.
Then in Howick Village Hall, supper was served to more than 100 guests, followed by a screening of the story of the Tadorne as told and illustrated in the book Le Coffre du Marin by Loic Josse, illustrated by Maurice Pommier and published by Gallimard Jeunesse.
Songs of the Sea were sung by the Howick Coastal Choir, and a banner made by the Howick Craft Club was presented to the visitors.
To round off the day, speeches were given by Lord Howick and the French Consul, Dr Andrew Robinson, who, on behalf of the French Ambassador and Government, thanked the Howick Heritage Group for organising the day’s programme.
There is to be a similar event in Craster Village Hall in June.
A booklet, The Wreck of the Tadorne, has been published by The Howick Heritage Group and is on sale at the Howick Gardens Kiosk, Howick Church and local shops priced at £3.